My employee’s booked an overseas holiday. What should I do?

Read on to find out what our employment law expert advises…

BrightHR Team

The government confirmed a list of fifteen ‘green’ countries on Tuesday 21 July. The publication of this list could spark an increase in foreign travel bookings and it’s important for employers to be aware of any overseas travel plans staff might have.

The green list allows people to make non-essential trips to the relevant countries without the need to restrict their movements for fourteen days when they arrive back in Ireland.

The National Public Health Emergency Team on the other hand has maintained its position that people should not make any non-essential foreign trips for the rest of the year. The government even stated in its announcement of the green list that the safest thing people can do this year is not to travel.

So with that in mind, what should you do if an employee has an overseas trip planned and intends to go? We asked one of our employment law experts to explain…
First off, confirm if the employee is visiting a country on the green list. Employees travelling to any overseas destination that is not on the list will be required to restrict their movements meaning they won’t be available to attend the workplace for 14 days after they return.

You also have to comply with your duty under health & safety legislation to ensure the safety of all employees while they are at work. You may have legitimate health & safety concerns around all foreign travel as the ability to social distance on a plane is severely restricted on aircraft. Another concern stems from the fact that many of the countries on the list are only accessible indirectly, meaning employees would need to stop in a country that is not on the list.

Given the government advice, it is still reasonable for you to continue to require employees returning from a foreign trip to restrict their movements for fourteen days after they return. This is perfectly acceptable to minimise the risk of transmission in the workplace.

So how do you handle this situation?

Your employee could work from home for the period or take additional annual leave.

If homeworking isn’t possible, you could consider whether your employee could take paid or unpaid leave. But you’ll have to think about the possible impact this could have on your business and employees are likely to be unhappy at having to take unpaid time off work.

Another option is to cancel your employee’s time off. Before cancelling annual leave, you should first explore all alternatives. There should be a clear business reason for any decision to cancel a period of annual leave. Cancellations should only be considered as a last resort and should never happen without at least one month’s notice.

If you cancel booked annual leave at short notice before the holiday is due to begin and the employee suffers financial loss, the employee may be in a position to claim there has been a breach of the implied duty of mutual trust and confidence. This course of action could lead to a constructive dismissal claim for breach of contract which is a terrible outcome for everyone. 

To protect yourself and your business, it’s wise to create a travel policy to outline how you’d handle similar travel restrictions in the future. This will help your employees to make an informed decision before they request leave and book travel.

Got a question of your own?

Call one of our friendly HR experts today. They’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to give you confidential legal advice.

So whether you need more information on managing holidays this summer or want guidance on what to include in your policy, our employment law experts are just a phone call away.

Simply ring us now on 1800 279 841.